The best presentations are conversations

Boring PresentationIf there’s one thing I really hate (OK I hate lots of things, but …) it’s people shouting at me.

It happens a lot on social media, and not just from people who are addicted to the abuse of capital letters). It happens in real life sometimes as well, notably in many business presentations.

By shouting, in the context of presentations I don’t necessarily mean raised voices or high volume. I mean people who present at or to me.

As a receiver of communication I always respond more favourably to people who talk with me not at me. As a receiver and sender of communication I always recommend a conversation not a sermon.

I’d start by ditching the PowerPoint, or at least showing some restraint.

In my experience the people who use visual aids most in presentations are those who don’t know their subject well enough to present without them. So when I see a big deck of slides or lots of props, my first thought is invariably that this person doesn’t know their stuff.

In a business (and that includes the business of communications) presentation nobody should ever need to use a script, other than to refer to matters of great complexity or detail.

A script is for rehearsal, not for performance.

I recall the best ever new business pitch made to me when the presentational materials were produced but not used. Peter “never knowingly underlunched” Bingle made a pitch for the first ever McDonald’s UK public affairs account.

My boss and I had sat through five or six PowerPoint presentations. We were beginning to lose the will to live by the time Mr Bingle appeared (no doubt after a long lunch).

Peter placed his presentation on the boardroom table and started his pitch by saying that public affairs was all about people and having conversations with people. He offered to make the presentation with the slides, or have a conversation with us.

My boss, who bizarrely was the purchasing director and hated PR, gratefully opted for the conversation. Peter won the business. He has never let on whether the presentation was in fact a blank deck, which was always my suspicion.

That experience taught me that in a business which is concerned almost entirely with people, words and ideas, it’s not a good plan to bury the insights into all three with a PowerPoint presentation.

Although as a former Microsoftee, I would say that PowerPoint is an excellent product when used sparingly and with intelligence. Less is nearly always more!


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